Berlin driver’s ‘confused’ statements under investigation

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Investigators are trying to make sense of “confused” statements by a man who drove into a school group in Berlin in what appears to have been a deliberate rampage, the city’s mayor said Thursday.

Wednesday’s incident on a popular shopping street in the center of the capital left one woman dead, a teacher with the school group from central Germany, and six people with life-threatening injuries. Another three were seriously injured.

Berlin’s top security official, Iris Spranger, told the state legislature Thursday that 29 people were injured in total, 14 of them students - seven of whom were in hospitals, along with another teacher.

The driver, a 29-year-old German-Armenian who lives in Berlin, was detained swiftly after his car came to a halt in a shop window. Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey said that, by Wednesday evening, authorities had determined that it was an “amok act by a really seriously psychologically impaired person.”

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She told public broadcaster RBB Inforadio that investigators are working to determine the context and what if anything else influenced him. They are also “trying, with the help of a language mediator, to find out more from the partially confused statements he is making,” she added.

Spranger said Wednesday that posters were found in the car “in which he expressed views about Turkey.” She told lawmakers Thursday that it remains unclear whether they are connected to the incident and reiterated that there was no claim of responsibility.

The man’s apartment was searched on Wednesday evening and his cellphone and computer are still being examined, Spranger said.

The suspect obtained German citizenship in 2015 and apparently had “psychological problems” in the past, she said. He was known to police because of proceedings for suspected bodily harm, trespassing and slander, but not for political or other extremism, she added.

The regional government in central Hesse state said that the students who were hit attended a 10th-grade class - ages roughly 15-17 in Germany - in the town of Bad Arolsen.

State governor Boris Rhein, visiting the town on Thursday, said the students had been on a final-year trip. He said 17 members of the group had been brought home.

The car plowed into pedestrians close to the site of a 2016 attack in which an extremist drove a commandeered truck into a Christmas market, resulting in 13 deaths. Giffey said Wednesday’s crash “reopens deep wounds and traumas” associated with that event.

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